Bampton's Practice Bell


Following our successful application to the Lottery funded Awards for All programme, we have now installed our practice bell in Bampton tower. We were very fortunate to be able to obtain from Nicholson Engineering a 6 cwt. bell, cast in 1616 by John Wallis of Salisbury, which was unsatisfactory for use as a sounding bell. It is however ideal for our purposes. It fits in well at Bampton and we are delighted at being able to give a new home to such an old bell. We were very fortunate to have Ken Smith from Tiverton, together with Jim Vellacott and Mike Hatchett, two of our local ringers, as volunteers to assist in the bell hanging and we are really delighted with the finished product.

Bell hoisted through first trapdoor

We also give our sincere thanks to Andrew Nicholson of Nicholson Engineering Ltd who was more than generous in giving us his time and expertise to provide us with such an excellent training aid.



The practice bell is located in a new metal frame above the Bampton ring of six. The rope falls into the Ringing Chamber and has been incorporated into the circle of ropes, so that it feels just like ringing (say) the second or the third bell at Bampton. The bell has no clapper and thus it does not sound. A photo-electric sensor has been fitted to the frame of the practice bell and this has been linked to a computer through an Abel interface and software. The practice bell therefore 'sounds' only through the computer. This means that the practice bell is available for use at any reasonable time.

Ken Smith has set up the system so that we can replicate the number of bells, their sound and the normal speed of ringing for some of the key towers in our area. Our aim, therefore, is to make any user feel as much at home as possible when using the practice bell. Thus we have simulated six bell ringing at Bampton and Tiverton St Paul, eight bell ringing at Tiverton St Peter and ten bell ringing at Cullompton. It is easy to simulate any ring of bells and ring them at a wide range of speeds; however we have arranged for some of our towers to be available at the click of a button.


We have held two Open Days for members of the North East Branch of the Guild of Devonshire Ringers and the Dunster Branch of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers. We have also held one-day courses on "Introduction to Conducting Plain Bob Minor", "Sharing Experiences of Bell Handling" and "Shared Experience on Listening". Members of the Lydeard St Lawrence tower recently used the Practice Bell to assist them with 8-bell ringing prior to the installation of their two new bells. If there is a special training event that would interest you or that you would like to organise, please contact Mike Hatchett.



The practice bell can be used to develop the following skills:


The simulator keeps a record of the ringing and this can be used to determine what needs to be done to improve the quality of the ringing on each occasion the practice bell is used.

We have already found that even our more accomplished ringers don't strike perfectly and the practice bell and simulator can therefore be used by ringers at all stages of competence.



We have tried to make it as simple as possible for you to use the practice bell. Here is what you do:

1. Phone one of the following people to check that there are no church services, or other reasons, which might prevent you visiting at the time more convenient to you: Mike Hatchett Branch Training Officer 01398 331843
Tony Trigg Bampton Steeple Keeper 01398 331698

2. You will be met at the church and shown the equipment.

3. Please remember that, for safety reasons, we require two persons to be present whenever the practice bell is in use. If the bell is being used for basic bell handling, then the second person must be an accomplished ringer.

4. Please feel free to use the electrical appliances and to make a cup of coffee if you so wish. You may wish to bring your own milk, but there is a Spar shop just across the road.

5. If you are not familiar with the Abel software package, you will find a procedural note on the computer cabinet. (Click here to see a copy.) However, if you are unsure, we can arrange for someone to meet you and to show you how to set up the simulator.

6. We make a basic charge of 50p per session for use of the practice bell. This is really just to cover the cost of the electricity. Please give your 50p to the person who lets you into the ringing chamber.


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